Holy Cross graduates 664 during the Colleges 156th
Billy Collins 63, United States poet laureate, delivered
the principal address and received an honorary degree on
Friday, May 24, as the College graduated 664 men and women
during the Colleges 156th Commencement.
Collins, a professor of English at Lehman College at the
City University of New York and writer-in-residence at Sarah
Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y., is the author of several
volumes of poetry, including The Art of Drowning (1995); Questions
About Angels (1991) and the recently published Sailing
Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems. A recipient
of fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts,
The National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation,
he has received the Bess Hokin Prize, the Frederick Bock
Prize, the Oscar Blumenthal Prize and the Levinson Prize.
Collins lives with his wife, Diane, in Somers, N.Y.
In his address to the graduates, Collins recalled his days
on Mount St. James with humor, saying, Looking around
me today, I see that certain things have changed. I am not
suggesting that you do, but if you did remove every female
graduate sitting here and replaced her with a Jesuit, and
then took a black and white photograph of it, you would have
a clearer picture of how Holy Cross looked when I graduated.
Collins advised the graduates to keep alive your inner
schoolboy or schoolgirlthe one who never gets tired
of looking things up and finding things out.
What I am talking about, Collins said, is
critical reading and thinking as lifetime activitiesnot
merely exercises performed in the enclosed context of a school.
would like to convey to you the notion of endless self-schooling
and perpetual discoverya condition that would make
the phrase continuing education a redundancy.
To borrow an aphorism from my father, who, like most fathers
was fond of aphoristic wisdom, Experience holds its
graduation at the grave.
Other individuals receiving honorary degrees were Dennis
Budd, retired chief of the Worcester Fire Department, for
his service to the city and his leadership during the tragic
December 1999 warehouse fire in which six firefighters lost
their lives; and Dr. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, a clinical
psychologist and former member of the Human Rights Violations
Committee of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South
The valedictory address was delivered by Marianne S. Bellino 02,
of Washington, D.C., a visual arts history/ architectural
studies double major and a member of the College Honors Program.
In her address, Bellino reflected on a significant day during
her junior year abroad, spent in Florence, Italy. I
was sitting alone in the art department library, she
recalled, a refurbished church at the University of
Florence surrounded by Latin and Italian texts with the ceramic
tile of the floor beneath my feet, and the hard wood tables
at my arms. I was reading about the victory of Constantine
the Great. In battle surrounded by wounded, starved men,
depleted supplies and provisions he felt powerless and vulnerable.
The emperor was on the verge of being conquered in battle
and although had never before been a believer, he knelt down
and begged God for aid. Constantine opened his eyes and looked
into the sky. There radiating in the heavens he saw a cross
of light bearing the inscription, In Hoc Signo Vinces.
As my fluorescent yellow highlighter ran across this Latin
phrase, my focus shifted. The words echoed, In Hoc Signo
Vinces. I was immediately reminded of the Holy Cross
seal with the shield in the center bearing the very same
Latin inscription. I understood the words to mean: under
this sign of the cross you will be victorious, under this
sign you will conquer and win.
The ultimate victory, Bellino concluded, is
not always readily visible and does not signify triumph over
another. There is no easy formula for pursuing the right
path to victory, but it is essential to keep the quest alive.
If we are reminded of our bond, our symbolic union to the
Cross, the Holy Cross, each one of us can win a victory for
God, for ourselves, for our communities and for all of humanity. In
hoc signo vinces.